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7 half-truths about virtualization

Jon Brodkin | July 28, 2009
Virtualization is revolutionizing the data center, mostly for the better. But no technology is without potential pitfalls.

Virtualization should make it easier to deploy new desktops to users, apply patches and perform other management tasks. Desktop virtualization can also save money in the long run. A Denver transportation agency is expecting a $619,000 ROI over eight years by purchasing thin clients that will last longer than traditional PCs.

But IT shops have to remember desktop virtualization requires significant upfront costs, from purchasing user devices such as thin clients to back-end infrastructure such as servers, PC blades and networked storage to support VMs.

Anecdotally, Forrester Research analysts have found that enterprises spend about $860 per user, plus network upgrades, to get a desktop virtualization project up and running in the first year. A well-done desktop virtualization can certainly cut long-term costs. It just might take a few years to achieve ROI.

6. Virtualization is the same as cloud computing

Virtualization is a key enabler of cloud computing. But installing VMware on a few servers doesn't mean you've built a private cloud. In addition to virtualization, a private cloud requires service automation technologies and a self-service interface for provisioning new resources, says IBM cloud software chief Kristof Kloeckner.

In a blog post titled "virtualization isn't cloud computing," cloud start-up Enomaly's founder Reuven Cohen says virtualization is a building block for cloud computing, but the real key is abstraction at every level of the IT stack.

"The key to cloud infrastructure is abstraction to the point that it 'just doesn't matter,'" Cohen wrote. "Your infrastructure is always available and completely fault tolerant. Think more along the lines of the iPhone application delivery model (App Store), and less like the desktop application models of the past. The companies that will succeed are the ones who embrace this new hybrid internet centric model. More simply, the cloud is the computer."

A cloud doesn't necessarily even need virtualization. This has been proven by none other than Google officials, who have said they do not virtualize production hardware and instead use a job scheduling system of Google's own design to manage its many thousands of servers.

7. Virtualization is all about technology

This one won't surprise any longtime IT veteran: Sometimes, it's the people and not the technology that gets in the way. As Corman noted, people and processes are often not ready for the new challenges raised by virtualization.

Even if your virtualization project is a hit, you might become a victim of your own success. Once users might realize how easy it is to spin up a VM, they may become more demanding, making it harder for IT to focus on other tasks. Conversely, there may be resistance from users who prefer to stick with physical servers.


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